Japan has a prestigious line of cinema output, including some of the best Japanese movie dramas ever made. These movies take the form of parables and often occur in and around the horror of war. They remain visually stunning works of art that stand the time as some of the finest films in world cinema history.

  1. “Audition” Takashi Miike directs this horror film, which is also one of the best Japanese movie dramas ever made. The movie follows a widower whose son convinces him to begin dating again. When the man sets up a fake movie audition to find a girlfriend, he ends up in a nightmare with a psychotic young girl.

  2. “Grave of the Fireflies” This animated Japanese drama is set during World War II and follows two orphaned children trying to survive in the war ravaged country. The movie is a touching look at death and acceptance.

  3. “Tokyo Story” Yasujiro Ozu’s best film is also one of the best Japanese movie dramas of all time. The movie follows an older couple who travel to visit their grown children only to find the children are now too self-absorbed to spend any time with them. The movie is a somber film depicting growing apart over time.

  4. “In the Realm of the Senses” This Japanese drama remains one of the most controversial movies in cinema history. The movie occurs in pre-war Japan and focuses on a man who begins an affair with one of his servants. The movie features scenes of graphic sexual activity and was censored upon release.

  5. “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs” One of the best Japanese movie dramas ever made, this film follows the life of a young widow and shows her struggles to make a living. The main theme is the woman’s place in Japanese society and the temptations that come to allow her to make ends meet.

  6. “Rashomon” In one of the most inventive Japanese dramas of its time, Akira Kurosawa directs this murder mystery where the crime is shown from various points of view, creating a puzzle surrounding the actual events that took place.

  7. “Ikiru” Akira Kurosawa also directed this Japanese drama, centering on a man who learns he will die and sets out to find the meaning of life. The man changes his life from a lifeless man into someone who wants to help other people, helping change people around him in the process.

  8. “The Burmese Harp” This is a black and white film released in 1956 and remains one of the best Japanese movie drams of all time. The film is one of the first to show the effects of World War II on the members of the Japanese army. The film centers on a harp player who sets out to find peace after the war ends.

  9. “Ugetsu” “Ugetsu” is a ghost story and a haunting addition to the best Japanese movie dramas. The movie follows two brothers in pursuit of material possessions, one through greed and the other through envy, regardless of their own safety or that of their families.

  10. “Sansho the Bailiff” This historical drama follows the lives of two children sold into slavery. The movie won an award at the Venice Film Festival, bringing director Kenji Mizoguchi’s work to the attention of Western audiences.